Tangy pesto of kale, capers, garlic, and Parmesan. Perfect to add to pastas, salad dressings, or use as a spread on a grilled cheese sandwich.

kale pesto, condiment

Pesto is generally made by grinding garlic, a pinch of salt, and pine nuts together with a mortar and pestle until a creamy paste forms. Some people say the salt is added later, but I say no to this. The salt draws out the liquid of the garlic and helps to break it down into the paste you want.  An herb is added, frequently basil thanks to the Genoese, followed by more pounding, rubbing, and scraping by the pestle (which likely lent its name to the pesto). Next comes grated hard cheese, like a salty Parmigiano Reggiano, pecorino romano, or a Grana Padano. A few glugs of extra virgin olive oil brings it all together – and preserves it.

What a lovely way to connect to food, watching it transform in small bowl under your own efforts, pungent garlic, basil, and cheese seducing the senses. And a nice little upper-arm exercise thrown in as a bonus.

But I didn’t do that, if only because I didn’t have time that day. And I didn’t have any basil.

But I had lots of kale in my garden. So I switched kale in for the basil pesto, and traded seduction in for the speed of my food processor. It’s not the same experience, I won’t argue that it is, but it was done in five minutes. And some days, that’s all the time I have.

This is a great pesto to have in the refrigerator – it keeps for about a week or more as long as it’s covered with a little slick of oil. It might last longer, but it was gone way before then. By the time I threw it into eggs and pasta, and on top of breakfast pizzas , I had just enough to spread on some crackers.


Kale Pesto

     by Susan Pridmore

     Makes about 1/2 cup

       Prep Time: 5 minutes


  • 10 small kale leaves
  • ½ Serrano pepper, seeded, and coarsely chopped
  • 6 to 8 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon capers with a few drops of the caper juice
  • 3 tablespoon grated Pecorino cheese
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or enough to get the consistency you prefer plus more to top it off


Remove the central tough stem from the kale leaves and discard. Coarsely chop the leaves and add them to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade.

Add the pepper, garlic, salt, capers and juice, and cheese.

Pulse until it’s ground to a coarse paste. Add the olive oil while pulsing.

Pour into a jar, top it with a little slick of olive oil and cover. Keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.

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21 Responses to “Kale Pesto” Subscribe

  1. apuginthekitchen April 12, 2013 at 10:56 am #

    Making this today! I have some Kale, no serrano peppers but will sub red pepper flakes. I can’t wait to taste this. Thanks for posting this recipe.
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    • apuginthekitchen April 12, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

      Made this today, it’s wonderful!! going to have it on pasta tonight, and tomorrow will spread on pizza. This is wonderful!
      apuginthekitchen recently posted..Favorite CookbooksMy Profile

      • The Wimpy Vegetarian April 13, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

        I’m soooo excited that you made this, Suzanne! And really happy you like it. I’ve found all kinds of ways to use it! I’ve gone through two jars of it now :-)
        The Wimpy Vegetarian recently posted..Kale PestoMy Profile

        • apuginthekitchen April 13, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

          I loved it, used it on pizza tonight. Delicious, It is a fantastic condiment also, I am going to try it on oven roasted potatoes.
          apuginthekitchen recently posted..Favorite CookbooksMy Profile

  2. Rita April 12, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

    Great way to use kale, Susan. I did a sorta similar recipe using fresh spinach. It could be used as a sauce to make a pesto lasagna, or as a dip, or…
    Rita recently posted..Comment on Deviled Potato Eggs by Rosie’s KitchenMy Profile

    • The Wimpy Vegetarian April 13, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

      Spinach is another great vegetable to use in a pesto! You’re right, it’s so versatile! I’m making my third jar in as many weeks tomorrow :-)
      The Wimpy Vegetarian recently posted..Kale PestoMy Profile

  3. lizthechef April 12, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

    And the kale is such a healthier alternative to the basil I usually use – and I always make mine in the processor. signed, Lazy Liz

    • The Wimpy Vegetarian April 13, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

      You know, sometimes the food processor is just fine. I don’t churn my own butter either :-) (Although I must confess that I’ve made it with my kitchen aid…)
      The Wimpy Vegetarian recently posted..Kale PestoMy Profile

  4. TasteFood April 12, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    A great alternative to basil – which I am not a huge fan of….
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  5. Norma Chang April 12, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    A delicious way to use kale, can’t wait for my garden to start producing it. Unfortunately today is back to winter-coat weather.
    Norma Chang recently posted Sugar Snap Peas & Chayote Stir-fry: http://gardentowok.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/sugar-snap-peas-chayote-stir-fry/

    • The Wimpy Vegetarian April 13, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

      Hopefully spring is around the bend soon for you, and your prolific, amazing garden. I love reading about all the things you grow!
      The Wimpy Vegetarian recently posted..Kale PestoMy Profile

  6. EA-The Spicy RD April 13, 2013 at 3:46 pm #

    Gorgeous kale pesto! I have made some before too-love it! And, I love your addition of serrano pepper too! Hope you’re having a wonderful weekend :-)

    • The Wimpy Vegetarian April 13, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

      It gives just a little bit to it, which we like! Our weekend is wonderful :-) Hope yours is too!
      The Wimpy Vegetarian recently posted..Kale PestoMy Profile

  7. Shelby | Diabetic Foodie April 14, 2013 at 5:39 am #

    I love experimenting with pesto – basil is good, but so are lots of other greens. This sounds great with its spicy, salty kick.
    Shelby | Diabetic Foodie recently posted..Goat Cheese Basil Grits for #SundaySupperMy Profile

  8. mjskit April 14, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

    I’m a huge basil pesto lover, but I’ve never gone much further than that. Your kale pesto sounds delicious and would definitely be delicious on some tasty breads or crackers. YUM!
    mjskit recently posted..Green Chile Pecan Cheese SpreadMy Profile

  9. Lilly Sue April 15, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

    I love pesto! And I like the addition of capers :)
    Lilly Sue recently posted..Monday MunchiesMy Profile

  10. Mary @ Fit and Fed April 30, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

    What a cool idea! I’ve heard of a lot of kinds of pesto but this is the first time I’ve seen kale! I like the way you added assertive flavors like the serrano pepper and capers that can stand up to the kale.
    Mary @ Fit and Fed recently posted..Trader Joe’s Kale Waldorf SaladMy Profile

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